Until the last week or so, hardly anyone in New Zealand had heard of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (Posie Parker). It’s a bit hard to be certain of the full range of her views, and how controversial they may or may not be. Clearly, though, her views are seen by some people as offensive.
In a free and open society, however, being offensive in the eyes of those who hold different views is not sufficient grounds for having your freedoms of opinion and expression denied.
It appears that, speaking as a woman, and from a secular feminist position, Mrs Keen-Minshull believes that a woman is an adult human female, she objects to trans women trying to redefine what a woman is, and she argues that many women do not feel safe with trans women in women’s own spaces.
If those are in fact her primary premises, they are not unreasonable. Indeed, they have long-established roots in human experience, culture, and biological science. Are such views truly so appallingly offensive and harmful that they must be declared inadmissible and unspeakable? If so, what can anyone safely think or say about anything?
In a free society, we all need to robustly defend the right of everyone else to express views we might deeply disagree with. That is part of the social contract that is basic to living in a democratic and open society.
It comes across as intolerant and potentially oppressive when people label as “hateful” any viewpoint that questions their own view of life, and then seek to silence it by law, slurs, and intimidation – and last week by an angry, screaming, violent mob, with limited police presence, and with apparent support from some media and politicians.
Tolerance needs to work both ways.
In a free, diverse, and genuinely inclusive society, we must allow everyone to speak, question, and debate. If that right is not robustly defended, our society will sooner or later end up a very strange and scary place.